Modu Chanyu was the son of Touman and the founder of the empire of the Xiongnu. He came to power by ordering his men to kill his father in 209 BCE. Similarly, Modu ruled from 209 BCE to 174 BCE. He was a military leader under his father Touman, and later Chanyu of the Xiongnu Empire, situated in modern-day Mongolia. Further, he secured the throne and established a powerful Xiongnu Empire by successfully unifying the tribes of the Mongolian-Manchurian grassland in response to the loss of Xiongnu pasture lands to invading Qin forces commanded by Meng Tian in 215 BCE. While Modu rode and then furthered the wave of militarization and effectively centralized Xiongnu power, the Qin quickly fell into disarray with the death of the first emperor in 210, leaving Modu a free hand to expand his Xiongnu Empire into one of the largest of his time.
Origins & Rise to Power
According to Sima Qian, Modu was a gifted child but his father Touman wanted the son of another of his wives to succeed him. Moreover, to eliminate Modu as a competitor to his chosen heir, Touman sent the young Modu to the Yuezhi as a hostage; then he attacked the Yuezhi in the hopes that they would kill Modu as retribution. Similarly, Modu was able to escape this fate by stealing a fast horse and returned to the Xiongnu, who welcomed him as a hero. As reward for this show of bravery, his father appointed him the commander of 10,000 horsemen.
Christopher I. Beckwith has pointed out that the story of the young Modu resembles a widespread class of folk tales in which a young hero is abandoned, goes on a quest, proves his worth, gains a group of trusted companions, returns to his home country, slays a powerful figure and becomes a king.
The name of Maodun has been associated with Oghuz Khagan, a mythological ancestor of the Turkic peoples. The reason for that is a striking similarity of the Oghuz Khagan biography in the Turco-Persian tradition (Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, Husayni Isfahani, Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur) with the Maodun biography in the Chinese sources (feud between the father and son and murder of the former, the direction and sequence of conquests, etc.), which was first noticed by Hyacinth (Compilation of reports, pp. 56–57).
- Full Name: Modu, Modun, or Maodun
- Born details: 234 BCE, Modern-day Mongolia
- Date of Death: 174 BCE
- Dynasty: Maodun
- Father: Touman
- Successor: Laoshang
- Children: Laoshang
- Grandchildren: Yizhixie, Junchen
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Reference Modu Chanyu